I've been posting about this, and the spin some politicians are pushing is reprehensible. Recently, Arizona allowed fees to charge rooftop-based solar energy producers for the privilege of selling or donating electrons to others for use. A few incredible or insane politicians are trying to spin it as if solar adopters are leeches despite the fact that they already pay for interconnect fees and all the excess energy they use.
The alternative, of course, is to go completely off the grid using your own batteries, which will end up costing the power companies (and the politicians in their pockets) even more.
But it's not all without a shred of truth. There are definitely some costs associated with high adoption rates of solar, and the breakdown is pretty easy to explain:
- Substations convert and distribute 220 to your neighborhood, from high tension wires from the power plants.
- Substations convert one direction only -- from the high-voltage to the line voltage.
- High usage is generally in the warm daytime, through early evening.
- Solar covers most of the high usage times. Some companies charge more for energy use during these times.
This works great for the power companies when a few people on one substation have some solar power generators, because they feed it back into the grid for use by those without solar. As a result, the power company can charge the full amount for the electrons used (often at higher prices), but they don't have to transfer it long distances which inevitably carries loss due to capacitance and resistance. And they get all of this without investing in the cost of increased production at the power plants.
This also works great for the solar generators, because they reduce their use during the most expensive times, and usually push themselves into a lower usage tier due to overall reduced usage. A household that uses 500kWh might only draw 100kWh net from the grid over a month, and the first 100 are usually very cheap. Some places pay for excess electrons put onto the grid, others do not.
But here's the limitation: if all your neighbors have solar, it will exceed consumption during times of bright sunlight. In other words, the substation will send out no energy (nobody needs it), and in fact cannot backfeed it to other substations. This can cause a real issue when there's a surplus. Line voltage may even go up from 110 to around 130. This is when they need energy storage. Batteries are one method, but flywheels can work well, too. They could spin up a flywheel to consume the excess energy, then release it later as-needed (e.g. a dark cloud). In fact, they can spin up a flywheel at nighttime, too, when they have excess production, to smooth out daytime use. It's not just for independent generating stations, but this infrastructure will smooth out their plants for normal use, too.
Some unscrupulous legislators are trying to saddle solar generators with the cost of those who choose not to use solar. They claim exactly the opposite, that the solar producers are driving up costs. Really, they're making a needed upgrade more obvious and in any case, there is literally no way they are "driving up costs" by reducing their own usage. That fails the basic 5th grader test.
Localizing the storage is far more efficient than sending it hundreds of miles, plus it future proofs the obvious issues of people inevitably moving away from coal and natural gas generators. These local storage solutions or backfeeding substations should be pushed by all, even those without solar generation.